We’ve all seen the photos of bare shelves, empty grocery store freezers, and long lines of customers waiting to check out. Scenes reminiscent of blizzard and hurricane preparations are littering the news and our social media feeds. Shopping online isn’t much better—staples and cleaning products are either out of stock or back-ordered with constantly changing ship dates. Items that, against all odds, are in stock sell out in minutes as shoppers snatch up any available goods as quickly as they can.
So what can all this teach us about shopping local? And what can you do as a small business owner to help keep your doors open while your customers are staying home?
The first thing you can do as a responsible business owner is to make sure you and your employees are vigilant about slowing the spread of the virus. Encourage your employees to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer, stay home if they are sick, and limit contact. If you have employees that can work remotely, now is the time to send them home to work. Look for ways to encourage your employees to stay home if they are sick or high-risk without being penalized by your company policies.
Restaurants or retail stores can limit customer contact by providing curbside pickup or delivery via services like GrubHub, UberEats, Postmates, Instacart, and Doordash. Walk through your building and look for ways to distribute your high-demand products with limited or no customer contact, bottlenecks in foot traffic, or areas that tend to get crowded.
With more and more schools closing, after-school kids’ activities are also in jeopardy of losing business and revenue. Local dance schools across the country are offering online instruction for kids stuck at home, museums are offering virtual tours, and Scholastic is offering free online courses for kids. Reach out to your community and see how you can partner with other local businesses.
There are calls across social media to show support for local businesses by buying gift cards now to spend later. Make sure that your employees are knowledgeable in gift card transactions and start promoting their availability in your marketing plan. If you don’t already have the ability for customers to purchase these online, contact your website support team to set it up.
Look for ways your business can join in efforts to help your local community through donations of time, effort, or goods. If you’re looking for ways to support your healthy staff members, having them come to work and aiding in relief efforts can be a huge boost to morale.
We are all being called, as individuals and as business leaders, to do what is best for the larger community. Adapting our business practices to support our fellow small businesses is one way we can come together and support each other during an ever-changing, worldwide phenomenon.